Francis, Frederico eh what’s in name?

I believe it was Juliet, that girl in that yonder window with all the light breaking that uttered the now immortal Shakespeare line, What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.

Well if that rose was being called Frederico and the sweet smell was Barbisol from the local hair shop, then Jules would be on to something. As it turns out the good people of Great Clips, the place where I’ve been getting my hair cut since I retired from the military in September of 2009, thought my name was Frederico.


Just me and my dad. Francis and Frank. No Frederico’s present.

They have me in their data base as Frederico M. Linardo. Look, even in Italian my name, Francis, does not translate to Frederico. It would be Francesco. Phonetically: Fran-ches-co. As it turns out Frederico is Portuguese for Fredrick.

So universal a name is Francis, even in other languages it translates to… well Francis. Maori, Icelandic, Catalan, German, Latvian, you name it. Only in Latin, where it translates to Titus, does it really take a different form. Of course I’m ruling out the other languages that use symbols non-similar to ours. And by ours I mean the 26 letter alphabet.

Gotta be honest, I was less than amused.  I won’t go so far as to say I was hurt, but it was disconcerting to say the least. And the topper, she wouldn’t change it. That’s how it’s in the system, she says. And guess what, that’s how she put it up on the monitor that showed who was next in line for a great clip. Great Clip, see what I did there. Jokes are free at this level folks.

So there I was, getting my hair cut under a false name like a criminal on the lamb, praying the real Frederico did not decide to get his hair cut today. In defense of Great Clips, this was not my normal stomp. The monitor at the Great Clips I usually go to had seven names on it. No Frederico’s if you were wondering. So I went a block and a half east to this one. Only one Frederico there, me. But I went from being 8th in line to being 2nd. Fair trade I guess.

Sadly this is not the first time the locals have had issue with my name.

When I moved to Tennessee in 2000 I sought to change my home of record to Maryville so I could escape the “gubment” oppression of New Jersey. They don’t really have “The Man” in Tennessee. No more car inspections, no more state taxes, 1/3 the real estate taxes, a veritable financial heaven on earth. One step was changing my driver’s license over from the Garden State to the Volunteer State. That meant the a trip to the DMV.

Well let me tell ya. If Tennessee is heaven, the DMV is the waiting room.  Not a soul in the joint. I could not believe it. While I was filling out the forms a lady walked in with her daughter, grabbed their forms and sat down. That was it, me and this lady and her kid. I handed up my forms to the DMV lady and took a seat for what I thought could only be a few minutes.

Five minutes later I hear the DMV lady yell out for Michael. I don’t look up from the Home and Garden June issue I’m reading. A riveting debate on men who were opting to stay at home instead of work was holding my attention. Damn dead beats.  Anyway a few seconds more and a few more yells for Michael. My first thought was what a strange name for a girl, until I realized my name was Francis. The wheel of judgement comes round quickly in God’s country.

A few minutes after that the DMV lady was screeching the name Michael.  From the smell of Pall Malls, Jean Nate’ and Listerine filling the air space around me I knew she was close. I risked a glance up and she was looking and yelling at me.

Sir! Do you want your DL or not!?!!

I sheepishly responded. You… you didn’t call my name yet.

I was quickly ashamed of my blatant display of weakness. If the DMV lady was a dog she would have immediately peed on me to display her dominance as the alpha dog in the pack. I wreaked of yellow freakin fear.

Instead she yelled back.



Francis? Bet your ass lady. She’s lucky I wasn’t packin that day I’ll tell ya.

I regained my footing. I’m from Jersey, South Jersey. We come from the blood line of Rocky Balboa. We don’t stay down even though we should.

Ah hun, you’ve been calling Michael for the last ten minutes.

Well isn’t that your name?

The condescension was dripping from her mouth like so much drool. But I realized her confusion, until I perceived it was not confusion, but a jab at my lineage.

No ma’am. My name is Francis.

You mean you actually go by that name.

In the North we go by first names. It’s why we won the war you know.

To say that little phraseology went over like a fart in church would be a gross understatement. But her bark was apparently worse than her bite and she backed down, handed me my stuff and, as they say down here, I got my picture made.

She got in a parting shot.

I never met no boy named Francis before.

Cross it off your list DMV lady cause you just did.



Back to Work: Driving in Purgatory

Update: So I’ve been away for a while. What did I miss?

Turns out this work thing takes up a lot of time. Add that to the fact I’m old and the free time I do have at home takes the form of impromptu passing out in my chair for about 20 minutes. The length of nap time varies on what wakes me up. It could be anything from my snoring, to a kamikaze fly taking one for the team by diving into my mouth, or my assorted limbs going numb. Either way it’s usually a good signal that it may be time to take the long walk upstairs for bed. Now my real nighttime sleep is broken by one thing, and one thing only: the 4:30 alarm and my drive into purgatory.

Now before anyone gets an idea, I am not saying work is like purgatory. I’m not in any way saying that. No, work is phenomenal. I’m lucky to have such a job. The people are great and I’ve made some fast friends. I work in a modern building with serious comforts. And they pay me real American money, so I got that going for me. It’s the drive for which I lament. The 20 minute sled dog race with some of Knoxville’s finest motor vehicle operators that makes the 4:30am wake up such a joy.

As a christian/semi luke-warm catholic raised in the church and schooled by nuns, I believe in hell. As any bible believing christian should be able to tell you, hell is generally described as total and permanent separation from God. A darkness so consuming your soul cannot comprehend it and therefore suffers for eternity.

For my money that darkness could take many forms. When contemplating such things I always seem to come to the same scenario that depicts what my hell might look like.

Imagine if you will a two lane highway, straight as an arrow, unlimited speed, it’s and never ending. It’s lined by dense forests and sheer face walls of rock. In other words the only possible path of travel is on one of the two lanes. In my lane of course there is an old person, a grandma, frantically searching for the Shoney’s to hit the 4pm early bird dinner buffet before that bastard Fred from the fancy assisted living joint grabs up all the tater tots.

Her only line of sight, the 3 x 2 inch opening in the steering wheel. Her speed, a breakneck 35mph with one foot barely grazing the accelerator and one foot on the break shaking with the frequency uncommon in young healthy people. The effect of which is a perpetual blinking of her tail lights rivaling Chinese water torture and tapping out a Morse Code message over and over: You shall not pass!

If a rabid bear was charging you and your family at this very moment but you only had one bullet, you would have a hard time deciding to close out the bear or shoot her brakes lights out. And I’m stuck behind her.

old peopleBut it’s a straight road with two lanes. A veritable eternal passing lane. There is no bear. So there is no problem, save one small detail; an equally eternal line of cars traveling in the opposite direction. They are all old people and they are bumper to bumper and oblivious to my plight, made clear to me by each driver thrusting their middle finger at me as they drive by. That ladies and gentlemen is my hell. My eternal separation from God, delivered by the angel of death: The Shoney’s Early Bird.

So with that as some context let me describe my drive to and from work. Of course it’s not nearly as bad as all that. Hence the title Driving in Purgatory. As most know purgatory is not as bad as hell. Just a tiny sample as you await salvation and passage to the sweet paradise. My Shangri La lies 20 minutes from home, the entry to the plant. Between me and thee is the purgatory of drives. At 5am you would think it would be clear sailing, but you, like I, would be wrong. The road is littered with cars at 5am. That fact alone hurts the mind in places to this point undiscovered.

And then more times than not a weary traveler decides the left lane, traditionally and legally known as the passing lane where thou shall not linger, is the very place they will linger. Even as cars going 20mph faster are whipping to the right to pass. Undaunted the left lane transgressor decides slowing down might be safer. Moving to the right lane never comes close to this egregiously bad driver’s frontal lobe. That’s just the drive to work.

Coming home is a new ball of wax. Two on ramps on the right side of the four lane highway causes otherwise rational drivers going the speed limit in the right lane to inexplicably move to the left lane and slow down. AND. SLOW. DOWN. WHY! Why are you slowing down? Why are you moving over? Maintain your speed, stay on the right and the on ramps will have no effect. Moving to the left and SLOWING DOWN only causes a traffic jam that builds and builds and lasts for a millennia.

All that angst you think would be the end of me. But then I remember I get to come home to this:






And it turns out there is heaven on earth.